Latest
issue
GET HCM
magazine
Sign up for the FREE digital edition of HCM magazine and also get the HCM ezine and breaking news email alerts.
Not right now, thanksclose this window I've already subscribed!
Technogym
Technogym
Technogym
Follow Health Club Management on Twitter Like Health Club Management on Facebook Join the discussion with Health Club Management on LinkedIn
FITNESS, HEALTH, WELLNESS

features

Interview: Mário Barbosa

Go Fit is spreading its wings, with a five-year plan for growth and new projects already under construction in Italy. Its new CEO speaks to Kate Cracknell

Published in Health Club Management 2024 issue 3
Barbosa says Go Fit is a ‘very democratic brand’ that looks to serve the whole community / photo: GO FIT
Barbosa says Go Fit is a ‘very democratic brand’ that looks to serve the whole community / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit’s value proposition is overwhelming. It makes us very attractive to a lot of people

What excites you about Go Fit?
The company has a hugely powerful vision of creating the wellbeing infrastructure that society needs, inspiring individuals, families and communities to live healthier, more active, more sustainable lives.

We’ve redefined the model of public-private collaboration in Spain and are now entering the Italian market. We’ve been recognised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe as delivering best practice in public-private collaboration.

On average, we enter into 40-year agreements with local authorities and other social value-minded landowners, committing to delivering the investment and expertise to transform the wellbeing of local communities in a long-term, sustainable way.

Through our research body, the Go Fit Lab, we also put science and data at the heart of our business. People are looking for services that bring proven results, and our research evidences those results to give customers confidence in the proprietary Go Fit Method.

When you combine this with our huge breadth of facilities, products and services – an average of 50 team members to support you in every centre – and pricing that’s always affordable and accessible, Go Fit’s value proposition is overwhelming. It makes us very attractive to a lot of people.

Our research helps to open important doors; there’s an incredible hunger from governments and policymakers for research- and evidence-based best practice, and we’re happy to share our data and insights with them.

We believe we should be doing this as an industry, not just as individual brands. Together, we must evidence our impact to stimulate the market, combat any possible notion of ‘healthwashing’ our business models, and gain strength as a sector. It’s why Professor Alfonso Jimenez, our Go Fit Lab research director, not only pushes this agenda for our organisation, but also at EuropeActive and globally in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

In 2019, PricewaterhouseCoopers calculated Go Fit’s social value in Spain to be €300m and now we’re setting up social value monitoring site-by-site and in real-time with Alfonso and the Go Fit lab – this will launch in the next 12 months.

Tell us more about Go Fit’s social conscience.
I very much appreciate Go Fit’s willingness to think long-term, making decisions because they’re the right thing to do. For an example of taking good long-term decisions I can point to 2019, when the business invested in a 10-year green energy contract.

It was a brave move, because when the deal was signed it was going to cost above-market prices, but it was the right move for the sustainable world we want to help build. In the end, we also saved millions during the energy crisis, but that wasn’t why we did it.

Sustainability is something we’re investing heavily in across the business because it’s the right thing to do: the goal is for all new centres to be Net Zero.

We believe social impact pays off. I’m still sufficiently fresh in the sector not to feel able to offer too much advice to other operators, but I think Go Fit clearly shows how investing in society can also drive long-term commercial success.

Tell us about your move from fast food to fitness
I worked for McDonald’s for 23 years, starting in Portugal as product manager and ultimately moving to the US as president of the east coast, responsible for a P&L of more than US$22bn. It was an exciting journey with an exciting company.

In 2022, as I took a moment to think about my next career steps, I was presented with a fantastic opportunity: to come back to Europe and Go Fit – a business where it’s impossible not to feel excited as you step through the doors and with the move meaning a transition for me to a market that’s young, dynamic and full of opportunity.

Especially since the start of COVID, attitudes around health and fitness have changed in a positive way: a McKinsey study shows that 81 per cent of people now recognise the health benefits of being active. So there’s huge potential here, and what McDonald’s taught me was how to evolve and adapt to new circumstances: seeking out the opportunities, looking beyond where one might normally look for inspiration, forging different paths to overcome new challenges.

This is a mindset I’m excited to bring to Go Fit, where I believe the team is already best-in-market: passionate, with diverse backgrounds and expertise and zero complacency, even though Go Fit already has huge momentum and a proven social impact. Across the board, there’s a powerful desire to continually improve and learn, which I find really interesting.

But then Gabriel Saez, founder of Go Fit, is a very special person, and in Go Fit he created something exceptional. I’m delighted he was so closely involved in the selection process and that he chose to hand the baton to me in January 2023.

How has your first year been?
I’m fortunate to be able to lead an incredible organisation that was already in great health and enjoying momentum. It afforded me the time to get to know the business, the market, the challenges. I’ve spent a lot of time in our centres, getting to know our people, understanding their needs, seeing how the centres work and how our frontline teams interact with customers.

I’ve also spent time with the CEOs of some of the largest brands in the sector, both domestically and internationally, listening to their thoughts on the purpose of the sector and the opportunities for growth and progression. I’ve really learned from them.

This has helped shape Go Fit’s refreshed vision and new five-year plan. We already have an incredible organisation, but we’re humble enough to recognise that there are still areas for continued improvement if we want to move to the next level.

So it’s been a year of transition, but we’ve still had an outstanding year, with record revenues of €77m in 2023, and €31m in EBITDA. This once again speaks to the quality of the team, which hasn’t allowed itself to be distracted.

I would say those results, along with the team’s total lack of complacency – their desire to keep improving – have been the two big highlights of my first year.

It’s this desire to continually learn that has led to one of our first new initiatives: launching a Go Fit University in collaboration with King Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

What impresses me in this sector is that it’s really seen as a profession; we want to reward this by finding and investing in new ways to retain and develop our people.

We’ll offer certified continuous training that’s adapted to our needs, addressing technical gaps in knowledge but also developing the skills we need to thrive in this changing world. We’re laying the foundations for the years ahead.

Tell us about your five-year plan
This is a company that’s already having a huge impact on the communities it serves, but there’s lots of opportunity to achieve even greater scale and we have a clear plan to make that happen.

First, we talk a lot about relevance. How do we keep investing in the relevance of our offering and our products, responding to new trends and the changing demands of our customers? How do we bring the voice of the customer into the heart of our decision-making and how do we build a stronger emotional connection with all our customers?

We’re a very democratic brand – we serve the whole community – and we need to connect with every customer segment in a way that’s relevant, authentic and human. This human aspect is a big part of Go Fit, so we’ll work hard to recruit and retain the talent that will help us adapt to the challenges and stay relevant.

The second pillar is all about extending our reach as a brand, both geographically – preparing ourselves for the challenges of working in new markets – with Italy the first – and in terms of our customer base. For example, we’ll continue to focus on families, which account for close to 50 per cent of our business, but we’re also seeing dramatically increased demand among seniors and we’ve become the new social club for young people too. How do we continue to deepen that richness and diversity?

Pillar three is about maximising our impact on society by unleashing the power of our greatest asset: our people. Our new Barrio Go Fit concept is a lovely example. ‘Barrio’ means ‘neighbourhood’ and it’s an umbrella term that allows us to give a combined voice to our various community projects, show people what we’re all about and help them feel part of Go Fit.

One great Barrio project that’s being led by the Go Fit Lab is our breast cancer programme, which is being rolled out following three years of PhD research, which we funded and supported. One of our flagship centres is collaborating with a local hospital to deliver the programme, looking to demonstrate the incredible value of physical activity in improving the lives of those in the most challenging of circumstances. Over the coming years, we hope to scale it across the country as a flagship initiative of our Barrio Go Fit programme.

Finally, we’re looking to further exploit new technology to enhance the experience of our customers and make us continuously more efficient.

You mentioned a growth in younger audiences?
We’ve reached close to 230,000 members in total – around 12,000 in each facility – and all our customer segments are returning and engaging with us. There’s full optimism for the years ahead, but what’s really interesting are the higher usage rates we’re seeing in our existing centres.

We broke our all-time record as early as March 2023, far exceeding like-for-like pre-pandemic figures, and like many we’ve seen an intensification in usage among young people. Young people attend more in groups and they attend more frequently. We are the new youth club, a social place for young people to connect.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing growing demand for strength training among women, as well as growing recognition of its health benefits among older adults. As a result, more than 40 per cent of customers now use our free weights areas frequently, up from 25 per cent.

We’re seeing great hunger from all customer groups for personal training and other additional products, too.

So there’s definitely a change in the way people are using our centres, and we’ve been interrogating our product and service models to ensure what we offer is the most effective and relevant for this changing user profile.

We’ve already doubled our free weight areas and added starting points to every location to help engage new joiners. We’ve expanded our functional areas and designed new spaces and layouts, including new recovery zones. We’re seeing a greater use of our outdoor spaces – a merging of outdoor and indoor training. Our app is helping us deliver a seamless customer experience. And we have new options for premium membership tiers including personal training.

What are Go Fit’s plans for Italy?
We’re very excited by Italy. Our model doesn’t exist there yet – there’s no successful model of sustainable public-private collaboration – and with our approach generally involving the regeneration of abandoned buildings and areas of cities, we expect there to be significant interest from local authorities across the country.

We believe our value proposition will be of great relevance to the Italian population, too. At the moment, the market is characterised by either low-cost or premium clubs: there’s nobody offering Go Fit’s variety of products and services at our affordable price point. In fact, in the decades ahead, we believe Italy has the potential to become as big a market as Iberia for us – potentially bigger.

Our first project is in Turin where we’re converting an historic flower market into a flagship Go Fit. We’ve purchased this building ourselves and are in construction now, with a plan to open in 2025.

Our first public-private concession is Milan Lido, a huge area in the centre of the city where we’ve entered into a 40-year agreement. We’re responsible not only for building the centre but also regenerating the park: the green areas, lake and so on. We’ve started construction, but the size of the project means we expect to open in 2026. When it’s done, we believe it will inspire many other cities to look at opportunities to collaborate with us.

What are your expansion plans elsewhere?
We currently have 18 centres in Spain, with a 19th to come in Tenerife in 2025. It’s the largest infrastructure investment in the Canary Islands, with a lot of excitement in the community.

Our intention moving forward is to open two locations a year, starting with Turin and Tenerife in 2025, then Milan Lido and another location in Italy in 2026. We have a clear focus on Italy for now, but Spain is and always will be a very important market for us: we already have a couple more projects being developed there. We also have two centres in Portugal, and will look at other opportunities that arise there.

We believe our model could work well in other markets and see the UK as a big opportunity, with no shortage of partners keen to progress with us.

So Italy is our priority for now, and our systematic approach will see us launch and get results in one market before moving on to the next. But we will definitely continue to explore the UK, taking one step at a time.

And what can you tell us about your growth forecasts generally?
2024 is looking positive so far. We’re expecting a steady growth in revenues this year before accelerating from 2025 as we start opening new centres.

We’ve set out ambitious aims to double our revenues and EBITDA over the next five years.

Bigger picture, we want to grow the company; enter new markets and prove our model can work; continue to inspire individuals, families and communities to be more active, healthy and sustainable; support the conversation in our sector around social impact, showing how we can create the wellbeing infrastructure our society so badly needs; and ultimately redefine the category we’re so proud to be a part of, by demonstrating the immense contribution that we make.

On site with Go Fit

Santa Cruz, Tenerife

Project Type: Public-private partnership concession
Go Fit Investment: €20m
Opening Date: H1 2025
Built Area: 25,000sq m

The Flower Market, Turin

Project Type: Private project
Go Fit Investment: €19m
Opening Date: H2 2025
Built Area: 14,500 sq m
Outdoor area: 2,000sq m

The Lido, Milan

Project Type: Public-private partnership concession
Go Fit Investment: €25m
Opening Date: H1 2026
Built Area: 20,000sq m
Outdoor area: 84,000 sq m

Go Fit: What’s inside?

Barbosa explains: “A Go Fit facility is a vast playground of wellbeing, with a range of activities on offer that cater to fitness enthusiasts, first timers and everything in between.

“We strive to provide a complete value proposition in terms of its affordability, scale, convenience, breadth of offer and universal consumer appeal. Our standard facility mix involves an extensive water area with 25m pools, group activity pools and spa recuperation areas, and a very large health and fitness area of at least 1,300sq m, equipped with top-of-market equipment – historically Artis by Technogym.

“There are four 250sq m group activity rooms which cater for a programme of more than 1,000 group activity classes per month; an outdoor training zone or terrace; outdoor areas such as gardens and pools; family areas including dedicated kids zones; and – depending on the needs of local partners – additional facilities such as sports halls and courts for tennis and padel.

This is the hardware of Go Fit

“On paper, it reads like any other large facility and many have sought to replicate the designs, facility mix and concept, but it’s not the hardware that defines us, it’s the way in which we operate – the Go Fit Method that curates the customer journey of each customer, the culture of our team and the way we maximise our impact on the local community.

“This ‘software’ of the organisation – in contrast to the hardware of the box – is impossible to replicate in its entirety. It’s this that delivers the differential experience and results that we enjoy, with an average of nearly 12,000 customers in each Go Fit site and an outsized social value.”

We strive to provide a complete value proposition in terms of its affordability, scale, convenience, breadth of offer and universal consumer appeal
A Go Fit club is ‘a vast playground of wellbeing’ / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit has reimagined public-private collaboration in Spain / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit has reimagined public-private collaboration in Spain / photo: GO FIT
Post-COVID, more people recognise the health benefits of activity / photo: GO FIT
Post-COVID, more people recognise the health benefits of activity / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit believes that social impact pays off / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit believes that social impact pays off / photo: GO FIT
Families make up over 50 per cent of Go Fit’s members / photo: GO FIT
Families make up over 50 per cent of Go Fit’s members / photo: GO FIT
Club revenues hit a record €77m in 2023 / photo: GO FIT
Club revenues hit a record €77m in 2023 / photo: GO FIT
Barbosa is leading a fresh new vision, along with a five-year plan / photo: GO FIT
Barbosa is leading a fresh new vision, along with a five-year plan / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit aims to provide a social space for all ages / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit aims to provide a social space for all ages / photo: GO FIT
The brand will be taking its model from Spain to Italy / photo: GO FIT
The brand will be taking its model from Spain to Italy / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit is attracting younger members and more seniors / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit is attracting younger members and more seniors / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit will accelerate growth with new openings in 2025 / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit will accelerate growth with new openings in 2025 / photo: GO FIT
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2024/353886_26128.jpg
The CEO of Go Fit talks to Kate Cracknell about the company’s year of record revenues, reaching new demographics and its expansion into Italy
HCM magazine
The European fitness sector is beating pre-pandemic numbers according to the 11th annual European Health & Fitness Market Report 2024 from Deloitte and EuropeActive, as Karsten Hollasch reports
HCM magazine
Pilates is having a moment. Steph Eaves asks suppliers how they’re responding to the demand
HCM magazine
Actually most people go to the gym to feel better and that’s far easier to achieve than losing 5kg
HCM magazine
Consumers’ growing love of strength training is to be welcomed, as this long-neglected modality has a renaissance, however, it’s vital we continue to make the case for cardio
HCM magazine
HCM People

Belinda Steward

MD of leisure, health and wellbeing, Places Leisure Places Leisure
We need to make it automatic that when people go to their doctor, they’re offered exercise rather than medication where appropriate
HCM promotional features
Sponsored
Coaching workshops from Keith Smith and Adam Daniel have been designed to empower your team and transform your service
HCM promotional features
Sponsored
Operators, prepare to revolutionise the way members connect with personal trainers in your club, with the ground-breaking Brawn platform.
HCM promotional features
Sponsored
University of Sheffield Sport has opened the doors of its flagship Goodwin Sports Centre following a major refurbishment
HCM promotional features
Sponsored
The partnership between PureGym and Belfast-based supplier BLK BOX is transforming the gym floor
HCM promotional features
Sponsored
Epassi, a provider of workplace wellness benefits, is creating a fitter and more productive workforce, one membership at a time 
HCM promotional features
Sponsored
GymNation is pioneering the future of fitness with software specialist Perfect Gym providing a scalable tech platform to power and sustain its growth
HCM promotional features
Sponsored
The New Keiser M3i Studio Bike brings ride data to life to engage and delight members
HCM promotional features
Sponsored
Francesca Cooper-Boden says health assessment services can boost health club retention
HCM promotional features
Sponsored
D2F had updated its brand styling to keep pace with business growth. MD, John Lofting and operations director, Matt Aynsley, explain the rationale
HCM promotional features
Latest News
Leisure, lifestyle, wellness and entertainment growth investor, Imbiba, has invested in boutique gym brand, 1Rebel's ...
Latest News
Urban Gym Group will launch PILAT3S at ClubSportive in Amsterdam next month, to create a ...
Latest News
The American Council on Exercise has appointed Dr Cedric Bryant as its new CEO. Bryant ...
Latest News
Sport England’s This Girl Can team has launched a new campaign, Let’s Get Out There, ...
Latest News
Improving physical strength and fitness, mental health and confidence are the main reasons for joining ...
Latest News
Speaking to HCM, global CEO of Lift Brands, Ty Menzies, has confirmed that the company ...
Latest News
Planet Fitness has announced the repurchase of 314,000 shares at a rate of US$20 million. ...
Latest News
Xponential Fitness today indefinitely suspended founder and CEO, Anthony Geisler, saying it had been notified ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Places Leisure successfully launches myFitApp to enhance member experience
Places Leisure is a leading leisure centre operator with a mission to create active places and healthy people for communities to thrive.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Sue Anstiss' Game Changers podcast headed for Elevate 2024
Join us at Elevate from 12-13 June in London for a special one-off live recording of The Game Changers Podcast with Sue Anstiss, CEO of Fearless Women.
Company profiles
Company profile: Life Fitness
The Life Fitness family of brands offers an unrivalled product portfolio, providing customers with access ...
Company profiles
Company profile: TRP (powered by Fitronics)
Fitronics develop effective, user-friendly software for the sport, health and fitness industry to improve member ...
Supplier Showcase
Supplier showcase - Jon Williams
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Featured press releases
Perfect Gym press release: PerfectGym joins Sport Alliance
Sport Alliance, a Hamburg-based provider of innovative software solutions and services to gyms and fitness suites, has announced the acquisition of PerfectGym, the international software provider to fitness and leisure businesses.
Featured press releases
Greenwich Leisure Limited press release: GLL fitness instructor smashes World Record
Anthony Bryan, a fitness instructor at GLL’s Southbury Leisure Centre, recently took part in the London Marathon.
Directory
Cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Cryotherapy
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
salt therapy products
Saltability: salt therapy products
Lockers
Fitlockers: Lockers
Snowroom
TechnoAlpin SpA: Snowroom
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Property & Tenders
Loughton, IG10
Knight Frank
Property & Tenders
Grantham, Leicestershire
Belvoir Castle
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
23-24 May 2024
Large Hall of the Chamber of Commerce (Erbprinzenpalais), Wiesbaden, Germany
Diary dates
30 May - 02 Jun 2024
Rimini Exhibition Center, Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
08-08 Jun 2024
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
11-13 Jun 2024
Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore, Singapore
Diary dates
12-13 Jun 2024
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-05 Sep 2024
IMPACT Exhibition Center, Bangkok, Thailand
Diary dates
08-10 Sep 2024
Wyndham® Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs™ Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
Diary dates
19-19 Sep 2024
The Salil Hotel Riverside - Bangkok, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Diary dates
20-22 Sep 2024
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
01-04 Oct 2024
REVĪVŌ Wellness Resort Nusa Dua Bali, Kabupaten Badung, Indonesia
Diary dates
09-13 Oct 2024
Soneva Fushi, Maldives
Diary dates
22-25 Oct 2024
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
24-24 Oct 2024
QEII Conference Centre, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2024
In person, St Andrews, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-06 Feb 2025
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates

features

Interview: Mário Barbosa

Go Fit is spreading its wings, with a five-year plan for growth and new projects already under construction in Italy. Its new CEO speaks to Kate Cracknell

Published in Health Club Management 2024 issue 3
Barbosa says Go Fit is a ‘very democratic brand’ that looks to serve the whole community / photo: GO FIT
Barbosa says Go Fit is a ‘very democratic brand’ that looks to serve the whole community / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit’s value proposition is overwhelming. It makes us very attractive to a lot of people

What excites you about Go Fit?
The company has a hugely powerful vision of creating the wellbeing infrastructure that society needs, inspiring individuals, families and communities to live healthier, more active, more sustainable lives.

We’ve redefined the model of public-private collaboration in Spain and are now entering the Italian market. We’ve been recognised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe as delivering best practice in public-private collaboration.

On average, we enter into 40-year agreements with local authorities and other social value-minded landowners, committing to delivering the investment and expertise to transform the wellbeing of local communities in a long-term, sustainable way.

Through our research body, the Go Fit Lab, we also put science and data at the heart of our business. People are looking for services that bring proven results, and our research evidences those results to give customers confidence in the proprietary Go Fit Method.

When you combine this with our huge breadth of facilities, products and services – an average of 50 team members to support you in every centre – and pricing that’s always affordable and accessible, Go Fit’s value proposition is overwhelming. It makes us very attractive to a lot of people.

Our research helps to open important doors; there’s an incredible hunger from governments and policymakers for research- and evidence-based best practice, and we’re happy to share our data and insights with them.

We believe we should be doing this as an industry, not just as individual brands. Together, we must evidence our impact to stimulate the market, combat any possible notion of ‘healthwashing’ our business models, and gain strength as a sector. It’s why Professor Alfonso Jimenez, our Go Fit Lab research director, not only pushes this agenda for our organisation, but also at EuropeActive and globally in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

In 2019, PricewaterhouseCoopers calculated Go Fit’s social value in Spain to be €300m and now we’re setting up social value monitoring site-by-site and in real-time with Alfonso and the Go Fit lab – this will launch in the next 12 months.

Tell us more about Go Fit’s social conscience.
I very much appreciate Go Fit’s willingness to think long-term, making decisions because they’re the right thing to do. For an example of taking good long-term decisions I can point to 2019, when the business invested in a 10-year green energy contract.

It was a brave move, because when the deal was signed it was going to cost above-market prices, but it was the right move for the sustainable world we want to help build. In the end, we also saved millions during the energy crisis, but that wasn’t why we did it.

Sustainability is something we’re investing heavily in across the business because it’s the right thing to do: the goal is for all new centres to be Net Zero.

We believe social impact pays off. I’m still sufficiently fresh in the sector not to feel able to offer too much advice to other operators, but I think Go Fit clearly shows how investing in society can also drive long-term commercial success.

Tell us about your move from fast food to fitness
I worked for McDonald’s for 23 years, starting in Portugal as product manager and ultimately moving to the US as president of the east coast, responsible for a P&L of more than US$22bn. It was an exciting journey with an exciting company.

In 2022, as I took a moment to think about my next career steps, I was presented with a fantastic opportunity: to come back to Europe and Go Fit – a business where it’s impossible not to feel excited as you step through the doors and with the move meaning a transition for me to a market that’s young, dynamic and full of opportunity.

Especially since the start of COVID, attitudes around health and fitness have changed in a positive way: a McKinsey study shows that 81 per cent of people now recognise the health benefits of being active. So there’s huge potential here, and what McDonald’s taught me was how to evolve and adapt to new circumstances: seeking out the opportunities, looking beyond where one might normally look for inspiration, forging different paths to overcome new challenges.

This is a mindset I’m excited to bring to Go Fit, where I believe the team is already best-in-market: passionate, with diverse backgrounds and expertise and zero complacency, even though Go Fit already has huge momentum and a proven social impact. Across the board, there’s a powerful desire to continually improve and learn, which I find really interesting.

But then Gabriel Saez, founder of Go Fit, is a very special person, and in Go Fit he created something exceptional. I’m delighted he was so closely involved in the selection process and that he chose to hand the baton to me in January 2023.

How has your first year been?
I’m fortunate to be able to lead an incredible organisation that was already in great health and enjoying momentum. It afforded me the time to get to know the business, the market, the challenges. I’ve spent a lot of time in our centres, getting to know our people, understanding their needs, seeing how the centres work and how our frontline teams interact with customers.

I’ve also spent time with the CEOs of some of the largest brands in the sector, both domestically and internationally, listening to their thoughts on the purpose of the sector and the opportunities for growth and progression. I’ve really learned from them.

This has helped shape Go Fit’s refreshed vision and new five-year plan. We already have an incredible organisation, but we’re humble enough to recognise that there are still areas for continued improvement if we want to move to the next level.

So it’s been a year of transition, but we’ve still had an outstanding year, with record revenues of €77m in 2023, and €31m in EBITDA. This once again speaks to the quality of the team, which hasn’t allowed itself to be distracted.

I would say those results, along with the team’s total lack of complacency – their desire to keep improving – have been the two big highlights of my first year.

It’s this desire to continually learn that has led to one of our first new initiatives: launching a Go Fit University in collaboration with King Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

What impresses me in this sector is that it’s really seen as a profession; we want to reward this by finding and investing in new ways to retain and develop our people.

We’ll offer certified continuous training that’s adapted to our needs, addressing technical gaps in knowledge but also developing the skills we need to thrive in this changing world. We’re laying the foundations for the years ahead.

Tell us about your five-year plan
This is a company that’s already having a huge impact on the communities it serves, but there’s lots of opportunity to achieve even greater scale and we have a clear plan to make that happen.

First, we talk a lot about relevance. How do we keep investing in the relevance of our offering and our products, responding to new trends and the changing demands of our customers? How do we bring the voice of the customer into the heart of our decision-making and how do we build a stronger emotional connection with all our customers?

We’re a very democratic brand – we serve the whole community – and we need to connect with every customer segment in a way that’s relevant, authentic and human. This human aspect is a big part of Go Fit, so we’ll work hard to recruit and retain the talent that will help us adapt to the challenges and stay relevant.

The second pillar is all about extending our reach as a brand, both geographically – preparing ourselves for the challenges of working in new markets – with Italy the first – and in terms of our customer base. For example, we’ll continue to focus on families, which account for close to 50 per cent of our business, but we’re also seeing dramatically increased demand among seniors and we’ve become the new social club for young people too. How do we continue to deepen that richness and diversity?

Pillar three is about maximising our impact on society by unleashing the power of our greatest asset: our people. Our new Barrio Go Fit concept is a lovely example. ‘Barrio’ means ‘neighbourhood’ and it’s an umbrella term that allows us to give a combined voice to our various community projects, show people what we’re all about and help them feel part of Go Fit.

One great Barrio project that’s being led by the Go Fit Lab is our breast cancer programme, which is being rolled out following three years of PhD research, which we funded and supported. One of our flagship centres is collaborating with a local hospital to deliver the programme, looking to demonstrate the incredible value of physical activity in improving the lives of those in the most challenging of circumstances. Over the coming years, we hope to scale it across the country as a flagship initiative of our Barrio Go Fit programme.

Finally, we’re looking to further exploit new technology to enhance the experience of our customers and make us continuously more efficient.

You mentioned a growth in younger audiences?
We’ve reached close to 230,000 members in total – around 12,000 in each facility – and all our customer segments are returning and engaging with us. There’s full optimism for the years ahead, but what’s really interesting are the higher usage rates we’re seeing in our existing centres.

We broke our all-time record as early as March 2023, far exceeding like-for-like pre-pandemic figures, and like many we’ve seen an intensification in usage among young people. Young people attend more in groups and they attend more frequently. We are the new youth club, a social place for young people to connect.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing growing demand for strength training among women, as well as growing recognition of its health benefits among older adults. As a result, more than 40 per cent of customers now use our free weights areas frequently, up from 25 per cent.

We’re seeing great hunger from all customer groups for personal training and other additional products, too.

So there’s definitely a change in the way people are using our centres, and we’ve been interrogating our product and service models to ensure what we offer is the most effective and relevant for this changing user profile.

We’ve already doubled our free weight areas and added starting points to every location to help engage new joiners. We’ve expanded our functional areas and designed new spaces and layouts, including new recovery zones. We’re seeing a greater use of our outdoor spaces – a merging of outdoor and indoor training. Our app is helping us deliver a seamless customer experience. And we have new options for premium membership tiers including personal training.

What are Go Fit’s plans for Italy?
We’re very excited by Italy. Our model doesn’t exist there yet – there’s no successful model of sustainable public-private collaboration – and with our approach generally involving the regeneration of abandoned buildings and areas of cities, we expect there to be significant interest from local authorities across the country.

We believe our value proposition will be of great relevance to the Italian population, too. At the moment, the market is characterised by either low-cost or premium clubs: there’s nobody offering Go Fit’s variety of products and services at our affordable price point. In fact, in the decades ahead, we believe Italy has the potential to become as big a market as Iberia for us – potentially bigger.

Our first project is in Turin where we’re converting an historic flower market into a flagship Go Fit. We’ve purchased this building ourselves and are in construction now, with a plan to open in 2025.

Our first public-private concession is Milan Lido, a huge area in the centre of the city where we’ve entered into a 40-year agreement. We’re responsible not only for building the centre but also regenerating the park: the green areas, lake and so on. We’ve started construction, but the size of the project means we expect to open in 2026. When it’s done, we believe it will inspire many other cities to look at opportunities to collaborate with us.

What are your expansion plans elsewhere?
We currently have 18 centres in Spain, with a 19th to come in Tenerife in 2025. It’s the largest infrastructure investment in the Canary Islands, with a lot of excitement in the community.

Our intention moving forward is to open two locations a year, starting with Turin and Tenerife in 2025, then Milan Lido and another location in Italy in 2026. We have a clear focus on Italy for now, but Spain is and always will be a very important market for us: we already have a couple more projects being developed there. We also have two centres in Portugal, and will look at other opportunities that arise there.

We believe our model could work well in other markets and see the UK as a big opportunity, with no shortage of partners keen to progress with us.

So Italy is our priority for now, and our systematic approach will see us launch and get results in one market before moving on to the next. But we will definitely continue to explore the UK, taking one step at a time.

And what can you tell us about your growth forecasts generally?
2024 is looking positive so far. We’re expecting a steady growth in revenues this year before accelerating from 2025 as we start opening new centres.

We’ve set out ambitious aims to double our revenues and EBITDA over the next five years.

Bigger picture, we want to grow the company; enter new markets and prove our model can work; continue to inspire individuals, families and communities to be more active, healthy and sustainable; support the conversation in our sector around social impact, showing how we can create the wellbeing infrastructure our society so badly needs; and ultimately redefine the category we’re so proud to be a part of, by demonstrating the immense contribution that we make.

On site with Go Fit

Santa Cruz, Tenerife

Project Type: Public-private partnership concession
Go Fit Investment: €20m
Opening Date: H1 2025
Built Area: 25,000sq m

The Flower Market, Turin

Project Type: Private project
Go Fit Investment: €19m
Opening Date: H2 2025
Built Area: 14,500 sq m
Outdoor area: 2,000sq m

The Lido, Milan

Project Type: Public-private partnership concession
Go Fit Investment: €25m
Opening Date: H1 2026
Built Area: 20,000sq m
Outdoor area: 84,000 sq m

Go Fit: What’s inside?

Barbosa explains: “A Go Fit facility is a vast playground of wellbeing, with a range of activities on offer that cater to fitness enthusiasts, first timers and everything in between.

“We strive to provide a complete value proposition in terms of its affordability, scale, convenience, breadth of offer and universal consumer appeal. Our standard facility mix involves an extensive water area with 25m pools, group activity pools and spa recuperation areas, and a very large health and fitness area of at least 1,300sq m, equipped with top-of-market equipment – historically Artis by Technogym.

“There are four 250sq m group activity rooms which cater for a programme of more than 1,000 group activity classes per month; an outdoor training zone or terrace; outdoor areas such as gardens and pools; family areas including dedicated kids zones; and – depending on the needs of local partners – additional facilities such as sports halls and courts for tennis and padel.

This is the hardware of Go Fit

“On paper, it reads like any other large facility and many have sought to replicate the designs, facility mix and concept, but it’s not the hardware that defines us, it’s the way in which we operate – the Go Fit Method that curates the customer journey of each customer, the culture of our team and the way we maximise our impact on the local community.

“This ‘software’ of the organisation – in contrast to the hardware of the box – is impossible to replicate in its entirety. It’s this that delivers the differential experience and results that we enjoy, with an average of nearly 12,000 customers in each Go Fit site and an outsized social value.”

We strive to provide a complete value proposition in terms of its affordability, scale, convenience, breadth of offer and universal consumer appeal
A Go Fit club is ‘a vast playground of wellbeing’ / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit has reimagined public-private collaboration in Spain / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit has reimagined public-private collaboration in Spain / photo: GO FIT
Post-COVID, more people recognise the health benefits of activity / photo: GO FIT
Post-COVID, more people recognise the health benefits of activity / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit believes that social impact pays off / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit believes that social impact pays off / photo: GO FIT
Families make up over 50 per cent of Go Fit’s members / photo: GO FIT
Families make up over 50 per cent of Go Fit’s members / photo: GO FIT
Club revenues hit a record €77m in 2023 / photo: GO FIT
Club revenues hit a record €77m in 2023 / photo: GO FIT
Barbosa is leading a fresh new vision, along with a five-year plan / photo: GO FIT
Barbosa is leading a fresh new vision, along with a five-year plan / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit aims to provide a social space for all ages / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit aims to provide a social space for all ages / photo: GO FIT
The brand will be taking its model from Spain to Italy / photo: GO FIT
The brand will be taking its model from Spain to Italy / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit is attracting younger members and more seniors / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit is attracting younger members and more seniors / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit will accelerate growth with new openings in 2025 / photo: GO FIT
Go Fit will accelerate growth with new openings in 2025 / photo: GO FIT
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2024/353886_26128.jpg
The CEO of Go Fit talks to Kate Cracknell about the company’s year of record revenues, reaching new demographics and its expansion into Italy
Latest News
Leisure, lifestyle, wellness and entertainment growth investor, Imbiba, has invested in boutique gym brand, 1Rebel's ...
Latest News
Urban Gym Group will launch PILAT3S at ClubSportive in Amsterdam next month, to create a ...
Latest News
The American Council on Exercise has appointed Dr Cedric Bryant as its new CEO. Bryant ...
Latest News
Sport England’s This Girl Can team has launched a new campaign, Let’s Get Out There, ...
Latest News
Improving physical strength and fitness, mental health and confidence are the main reasons for joining ...
Latest News
Speaking to HCM, global CEO of Lift Brands, Ty Menzies, has confirmed that the company ...
Latest News
Planet Fitness has announced the repurchase of 314,000 shares at a rate of US$20 million. ...
Latest News
Xponential Fitness today indefinitely suspended founder and CEO, Anthony Geisler, saying it had been notified ...
Latest News
Fast Fitness Japan, master franchisee of Anytime Fitness in Japan, has acquired Eighty-8 Health & ...
Latest News
Xplor Technologies has unveiled a financing solution for small businesses, which aims to counter the ...
Latest News
HoloBike, a holographic training bike that simulates trail rides in lifelike 3D, is aiming to ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Places Leisure successfully launches myFitApp to enhance member experience
Places Leisure is a leading leisure centre operator with a mission to create active places and healthy people for communities to thrive.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Sue Anstiss' Game Changers podcast headed for Elevate 2024
Join us at Elevate from 12-13 June in London for a special one-off live recording of The Game Changers Podcast with Sue Anstiss, CEO of Fearless Women.
Company profiles
Company profile: Life Fitness
The Life Fitness family of brands offers an unrivalled product portfolio, providing customers with access ...
Company profiles
Company profile: TRP (powered by Fitronics)
Fitronics develop effective, user-friendly software for the sport, health and fitness industry to improve member ...
Supplier Showcase
Supplier showcase - Jon Williams
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Featured press releases
Perfect Gym press release: PerfectGym joins Sport Alliance
Sport Alliance, a Hamburg-based provider of innovative software solutions and services to gyms and fitness suites, has announced the acquisition of PerfectGym, the international software provider to fitness and leisure businesses.
Featured press releases
Greenwich Leisure Limited press release: GLL fitness instructor smashes World Record
Anthony Bryan, a fitness instructor at GLL’s Southbury Leisure Centre, recently took part in the London Marathon.
Directory
Cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Cryotherapy
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
salt therapy products
Saltability: salt therapy products
Lockers
Fitlockers: Lockers
Snowroom
TechnoAlpin SpA: Snowroom
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Property & Tenders
Loughton, IG10
Knight Frank
Property & Tenders
Grantham, Leicestershire
Belvoir Castle
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
23-24 May 2024
Large Hall of the Chamber of Commerce (Erbprinzenpalais), Wiesbaden, Germany
Diary dates
30 May - 02 Jun 2024
Rimini Exhibition Center, Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
08-08 Jun 2024
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
11-13 Jun 2024
Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore, Singapore
Diary dates
12-13 Jun 2024
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-05 Sep 2024
IMPACT Exhibition Center, Bangkok, Thailand
Diary dates
08-10 Sep 2024
Wyndham® Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs™ Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
Diary dates
19-19 Sep 2024
The Salil Hotel Riverside - Bangkok, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Diary dates
20-22 Sep 2024
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
01-04 Oct 2024
REVĪVŌ Wellness Resort Nusa Dua Bali, Kabupaten Badung, Indonesia
Diary dates
09-13 Oct 2024
Soneva Fushi, Maldives
Diary dates
22-25 Oct 2024
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
24-24 Oct 2024
QEII Conference Centre, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2024
In person, St Andrews, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-06 Feb 2025
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
Search news, features & products:
Find a supplier:
Technogym
Technogym
Partner sites